Just as it did in 2011, the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board is planning to appoint a citizens committee to help it keep its budget in balance in future years.

Superintendent Paul Goren suggested to the board’s Finance Committee Monday night that the district appoint about a dozen citizens, including experts on school finance, to help “provide guidance on options.”

Many citizens invited to the committee, he said, would be the same ones that were involved in helping the district to develop its recently-adopted strategic plan.

While the budget projections of less than a half-million dollars for the upcoming 2015-2016 fiscal year are considered manageable, concern rises for the following years, when deficits of more than $5 million per year are projected, due largely to property tax caps that limit increases to the rise in the consumer price index that is significantly lower than actual expenses experienced by the district.

Last year, for example, the district projected a CPI of 2 percent, when it actually came in at 0.8 percent, which will significantly affect future tax receipts. On top of that, a major uncertainty in budget planning is the fate of revenues from the state that is teetering on bankruptcy because of future pension obligations, a portion of which could be shifted to local school districts.

The new superintendent and his central-office team are attempting to get a jump on the problem by calling on community stakeholders to help the administration prioritize options that are presumed to be unpopular with many of the district’s constituents.

One action the district took recently was to reduce the size of its central office staff by 29 positions, effective July 1, that will cut its salary budget by more than $2 million annually. Goren said at the time that the administration was hoping to keep additional reductions as far away from the classroom as possible.

One option that was discussed by the Finance Committee briefly Monday night was the possibility of holding a referendum—either for capital projects or operations, or both—but no decision was made. The timing is critical, however, as a decision on proposing a referendum for the next  election would have to be made by this December.

But a compilation of referenda results by the Illinois Association of School Administrators that was distributed to the committee indicated that passage is a 50-50 proposition at best. In recent years, most attempts at a referendum by Illinois school districts have been rejected by the voters.

As a starting point, it is expected that the new committee will examine the suggestions made by the 2011 committee, although most of the suggestions were not accompanied by projected budget savings.

Goren said the new committee would be expected to meet at least three times from August to November, and would hold town-hall-type forums to involve community input in the process.

Related stories:

D65 pares staff in budget move

Here’s a start: 30 D65 budget ideas

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. How to make a mountain out of a mole hill

    Keeping the school budget in balance is as easy as slicing thru butter with a warm knife.  Whenever a school district will go over budget for lack of funds, just increase class sizes.  Where is it written (the bible, the constitution?) that there should only be 25 or 30 children per teacher?  Why not 40 or 50 children per teacher?  Most baby-boomers who began their schooling in the 1950's can recall class sizes of at least 50 kids (and no teacher aids).  Maximum class size is determined by the eductional industrial complex and they have done an excellent job (pun intended, I'm sure) of taking care of their own.      

    1. Why not 100 kids per teacher

      Why not 100 kids per teacher and just use PowerPoint slides for PARCC prep? Then we can complain about how horrible and dumb the kids are.

    2. Are you serious? Have you
      Are you serious? Have you ever managed 50 five or six year-olds by yourself? Have you seen the size of the classrooms at D65 schools? Not to mention cafeterias, gyms, etc?

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